In the 1970's there was a TV show called "Columbo" starring the inimitable Peter Falk. "Columbo" was a police procedural whose shtick was that we, the audience, knew who the bad guy was from the beginning. The question was never whether Lt. Columbo would catch the bad guy (he always did) or when (at the end, of course) but how. Up to the very end of every episode it would look like the bad guy was going to get away with it, until Columbo foiled him (or her) with his signature line, "You made one mistake."
Watching this presidential election has on occasion felt a lot like watching an episode of Columbo. It was obvious from the beginning who the bad guy was. But somehow for fifteen months of gaffes, bumbles, childishness, offensive antics and a brazen disregard for the truth, Trump managed to get away with it. He won the Republican nomination (much to my surprise) and even managed to seem competitive in the general election at times (much to my chagrin).
But no more. Trump seems at long last to be having his Columbo bad-guy moment.
Ironically, the thing that looks like it might finally do him in was far from the worst of Trump's many, many transgressions against truth, justice, and the American way (to say nothing of mom, apple pie, and basic human decency). There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking all the tax deductions you are legally entitled to. There is nothing wrong with not paying taxes if you're not legally required to. Assuming that the $950M loss was legitimate, the fact that Trump didn't pay taxes for 20 years (assuming that is in fact the case) is actually something he can be legitimately proud of, at least in a sheepish sort of way. I freely admit that I haven't paid income tax in ten years, and it's not because I haven't had any income. It's not that I'm not patriotic or don't believe in pulling my weight -- I am and I do. It's that the system is badly broken. It favors the wealthy over the less-wealthy. This is a serious problem that needs to be solved, and I don't think that it is wise to unilaterally disarm. The fact that I haven't had to pay any taxes for ten years (and that Trump hasn't had to pay any in twenty) makes me angry, and it should make you angry too. But it doesn't make me a bad guy and it doesn't make Trump a bad guy.
Trump's mistake was not that he didn't pay taxes. Trump's mistake was that he thought he had to hide that fact instead of proudly displaying it as the symptom of the broken system that it is.
This could turn out to be the most ironic twist in a story that has had no shortage of irony. Donald Trump, the man who was not ashamed of saying that Mexicans are rapists, or that John McCain is not a hero, or that Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S., or attacking Ghazala Khan and Alicia Machado -- this man who has no shame is somehow ashamed of admitting that he paid no taxes.
All I can say is: thank God. Thank God that Donald Trump is such a colossal idiot that he got this exactly backwards. Because if he'd gotten this one thing right, if he had stood up and said, "I, Donald Trump, billionaire, have paid no federal income taxes for twenty years. And there's something deeply and fundamentally wrong with that, despite the fact that it was perfectly legal. No, not "despite" -- because. The fact that it was legal is the problem. I should have had to pay something. And if you vote for me, I'll fight tooth and nail to make sure that in the future I and other rich people like me do have to pay their fair share." -- if he'd said that, he would have won the election.
Thank God he didn't.